Many of us rely on that morning cup of coffee or tea to wake us up, to keep us going through the morning and to provide a boost for the mid-afternoon dip in mood and energy. While this may appear to be a pretty harmless habit, it is by no means the ideal solution to slumping energy levels and it can have a negative effect on our health.

Coffee contains caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can trigger the release of adrenaline, providing the body with a quick burst of energy as it causes the level of sugar in the blood to rise. This rise can also serve to give the brain a boost and we may notice improvements in mood and alertness. However, this ‘high’ is soon followed by a slump, giving rise to cravings – often for something sweet and sugary, dizziness, irritability, anxiety, sweating, palpitations, poor concentration and the need for another pick-me up. This sharp roller coaster rise and fall in blood sugar levels leads to an imbalance and a reliance on greater amounts of coffee and other stimulants.

Health Implications:

Caffeine is an ‘anti-nutrient’ that prevents the absorption of important vitamins and minerals and can also promote their excretion, such as B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron – nutrients that are required for energy, immunity, stress management and cardiovascular and bone health. Coffee creates an acidic environment in the body that needs to be neutralised – one way of achieving this is by the leaching of calcium from the bones. “Would you like Osteoporosis with that cappuccino sir?”

Studies have shown that coffee may contribute to high blood pressure as it interferes with the water volume in your arteries. As it raises insulin if is consumed continually then this can keep insulin levels in the blood high which is how diabetes develops.

Reducing your caffeine intake:

Cut out coffee. Do this gradually to avoid headaches and irritability linked to withdrawal. If this proves to be a huge task and a near impossibility, stick to one cup per day and make sure you drink it with food before 2pm. Coffee is a very heavily sprayed crop, so choose an organic brand if possible to reduce your intake of chemicals.
To help with balancing blood sugar levels and prevent the rapid fall, have a balanced complex carbohydrate and protein snack. Some nuts or seeds, oat or rice cakes with hummus, cottage, cheese, chicken, turkey or avocado. Coffee is often drunk when blood sugar levels are low.
Drink plenty of pure water – coffee is a diuretic that can cause dehydration. Drink 2 glasses for each cup of coffee.
Try alternatives such as chicory, barley or carob-based drinks, they look like coffee and some of them taste very similar; experiment and find one that suits your palette. Also try dandelion coffee (great for supporting the liver), herbal and fruit teas.
Starbucks anyone!?

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